The Start of Something…
I finally took two weeks off work. I say ‘finally’ because the day I traveled was jam packed I was worried I would miss my bus. The day was similar to one of those in the Mission Impossible franchise. I woke up with a strange feeling of having to drain my savings account; pretty nervous and excited about it. Nervous because – what will I do when I get back? Excited because I was doing something for me and taking a break from responsibility. I packed and unpacked three times; first to see if I had packed my laptop cable, then to see if I had packed my camera charger and lastly, to see if I had packed the spare camera batteries.
I reached office only to find about five new projects to be delivered by end of business day. Enemies of progress!– I thought to myself. So I skipped breakfast and decided to get on with it. Check in at the bus terminal was at 4pm, but by 3pm – I hadn’t had anything to eat, I hadn’t withdrawn money from the bank, let alone changed currency. When I told my friend I would be changing currencies at the bank, he exclaimed; “Are you crazy? Bank rates are unbelievably high!”I told him that I was aware of that issue but time wasn’t my friend. He advised me to get the money and go to a forex bureau nonetheless.
With barely enough time, I followed his advice. I went in to the forex bureau with a “lump-sum” of Ugandan Shillings, came out with a few notes of Tanzanian Shillings and even fewer Kenyan Shillings. I got concerned if my new notes would support my slightly ambitious itinerary but I figured there was only one way to find out, right?
The night before I traveled, I had the cleverest idea to check out Naivasha, north west of Nairobi – Kenya’s Capital. I had been to Nairobi a number of times, always passing through Naivasha and wondering what it would be like exploring all that vast flora, fauna and checkout Lake Naivasha, the home of the beautiful flamingos. With that in mind, I asked a couple of friends in Nairobi to recommend places that would obviously agree with my budget. I didn’t have anyone in Naivasha or I would have asked them.
Because the clever idea hit me at such short notice, I didn’t want to rely on internet reviews, I needed a recommendation that had been tested by people I know. Camp Carnelley’s was recommended, one of my friends had been there a number of times and even knew a guy who would help me direct me how to get there. Problem solved!
It was so hard for someone who works 8 to 5 to be on the bus whose departure time was 5pm! I was not happy with my friend, Mwesigwa who booked my ticket for making me go through that hassle. I eventually made it, obviously, with five minutes to spare and a migraine as a reward for my efforts.
In all fairness though, Mwesigwa made a good call; because of its convenience, the 8pm bus is more expensive than the 5pm. The 8pm bus reaches Nairobi between 8am to 9am, keeping all factors constant. The 5pm gets there earlier and since my stop – Naivasha is a couple of hours before Nairobi, I got there just after 4am.
Mwesigwa was traveling to Nairobi for a two week course in something, he is always studying something it’s so hard to keep up. I am so proud of my learned friend! When he told me he would be leaving on Friday, I knew we had to be on the same bus which worked out perfectly because he remembered to buy juice and drinking water. I only remembered to bring food. Most importantly though, he remembered to carry his jacket while I left mine at my desk in office.
Mwesi – as he’s fondly called – and I really caught up. We hadn’t gotten a chance since he returned from his Masters degree in Nigeria. We talked about how hard it is to get employed in the field one studied and or trained in and the general state of unemployment in the country, our families, villages. He had just returned from his in Kasese, western Uganda and told me how every farmer is yearning for rain. It’s been a long dry spell and their crops are dying. I told him I left my seven year old brother, Joel with a huge responsibility of taking care of my bedroom; sleep in my bed as long as he didn’t wet it. He was offended, he had reminded me that he had stopped wetting the bed “so many” years ago. I didn’t bring up the incident that he had actually done so just a couple of weeks ago and had blamed Mother for giving him tea at night…
Before we knew it, the bus had reached the Busia border, eastern Uganda, 198km from Kampala. We were happy to discover that the Ugandan Immigration office had moved to a new office space, bigger and obviously spacious. The single entry visa was also effected for the foreigner who wants to visit Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda for tourism, simultaneously. It costs one hundred dollars and is valid for three months. After a while, we crossed to the Kenyan side – their immigration officers are always way faster than their Ugandan counter parts. Could it be that because travelers don’t take too much time filling out travel forms? It makes the whole process fast and effortless. Maybe the Ugandan office should pick a leaf; where does it keep all those forms anyway?
As soon as we returned to the bus, I was so excited to be on the other side I decided to switch SIM cards and start using my Kenyan Safaricom line. But my phone couldn’t respond. God has a wonderful sense of humor, I prayed I wouldn’t have distractions from the social media platforms and there, my phone died. Mwesi tried to revive it, all in vain. By this time, we had started dozing off in intervals…
I had been reminding the bus attendant that I would alight at the Total gas station in Naivasha so often that he started calling me Naivasha. I had completely fallen asleep when he called out my new name and I instantly jumped out of my seat, Mwesi helped with my backpack and out I was. It was just after 4am, extremely cold to my standards and quite scary.
Mr. Otieno from Camp Carnelley’s had advised me to wait for daybreak at the restaurant at Total, then get a matatu to Naivasha town and another to Camp Carnelley’s, 21 km away. When I got to the restaurant, I found out that I wasn’t the only one waiting for daybreak, as a number of people were bundled up in scarfs and wraps, holding onto their steaming cups of hot beverages seeking warmth. I knew I was too sleepy not to fall asleep before the cup of tea reached my lips…
I tried to make myself comfortable, shifted my bag around so I could lay by head on it but the cold kept sipping through everything – my jeans, Mwesi’s jacket, my shoes – brrrrr
Somehow I managed to doze off and woke up at 5.30am. Watched the waiter; clad in a white shirt – sleeves rolled up to his elbows, nicely pressed black pants, shiny black shoes, black tie thrown back over his shoulder briskly mop the floor. He did it so effortlessly.
They say, one Kenyan does what it takes 10 Ugandans to do at a given time. In Uganda, they will hire a cleaner or two, sometimes three – who will most certainly do their job grudgingly, take their time while I remember seeing this gentleman when I walked in, so I wondered what time he came to work. At some point during his chore, he apologized for having to displace me and my luggage so he would clean. By 6am, the floor and tables were sparkling.
I ordered breakfast – black tea, a chapatti and a chicken sausage. It cost me Kshs. 50. The change of currency always throws me off at first. Around 6.30am after my breakfast, I was ready to start my day. I took a matatu to Naivasha town which was about 15 minutes from the gas station and cost me Kshs. 20. The matatu from town to the camp took about an hour to fill up with passengers but we were eventually off with Kshs. 80 as fare.
At this point, I was like a child on Christmas day, with no idea what to expect for Christmas but excited nonetheless. When I saw the Camp Carnelley’s signpost, I hit the matatu to signal to the driver my stop, like a true Kenyan – I had paid attention to the matatu conductor 🙂
I fell in love with the simplicity of the camp and I couldn’t wait to dump my luggage and begin my expedition!